Ron Guth: The Braided Hair Half Cent first appeared in 1840, not in circulation but as Proofs sold to collectors. In fact, no Half Cent of this type appeared until 1849, when the first coins were struck for circulation. In 1849, there are two varieties: Large Date and Small Date. The former was only made for circulation; the latter only as Proofs. The mintage for the circulation strikes of this year was less than 40,000 pieces, nearly matching the mintage of the 1850 and only slightly above that of the key date 1857. Despite the low mintage, the 1849 Half Cent is affordable relative to coins of similar rarity. This date is fairly common in circulated grades, even through About Uncirculated. Most Mint State examples center around the MS-63 grade, followed by fairly equal distributions in the MS-2 and MS-64 grades. PCGS has assigned the MS-65 grade to only three coins, with none finer. In Red-Brown, this date is very, very scarce. No full Red examples are known.
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